The menace of tuition centers

Greater Kashmir

Why have tuition centers become centres of nuisance for local residents and female students?

In a 20×12 tin shed at Parraypora, a physics teacher is teaching complex equations to around 200 students crammed in one classroom. Outside the ‘classroom’, dozens of youngsters roam around, speeding away on bikes throughout the day, and some wait for girls to come out so that they can pass comments and tease them – actions which in the past have led to fatal consequences. A 17-year-old girl Romana Javed, for example, was crushed to death under a car in 2009 by two youngsters.
This is the kind of milieu in which most of the coaching centres have been set up across the Valley, all in the name of better education. On one of the busiest roads in this summer capital on way to Srinagar Airport, countless coaching centres, made up of small wood and tin structures, have cropped up in a span of five years. From Barzulla to Parraypora to Hyderpora, more than two dozen such structures can be spotted with both boys and girls, in thousands, attending the 45-minute classes.
The tradition here is that each teacher has a separate tuition centre to teach a separate subject. “We are caught in a massive problem,” says Haji Ghulam Qadir, a senior resident of Parraypora.  “There are so many coaching centres coming up that it is becoming difficult for us to live a normal life. We see every sort of hooliganism here and all are responsible,” he says.
According to the locals most of the students attending coaching classes do not attend the lectures in these tuition centers. “Students who remain outside the centers sit on footpaths and they never attend tuition classes. They just come here to enjoy and make a fuss,” says another local resident. “But it is not true for every student. Some are very much serious and do their studies honestly. But the hooligans are at large here, more than the students,” he says.
Concerned over the mushroom growth of tuition centres, local residents of Parraypora say they want to rid their locality of these tuition centers which have become hotspots of crime. “We don’t care much about what do students study and how much do they pay, we are concerned about the negative impact these centres have on our locality. It has become a crime hub,” says a government teacher.
Non-governmental organizations say crimes against girls have increased in the area since the last three years due to increasing number of tuition centers. “Since 2009 we have recorded almost 50 to 60 cases ranging from minor eve-teasing incidents to attacks like hit-and-run cases in the Bhagat-Parraypora area,” says Umar Bhat, the general secretary of a local voluntary organization, J&K Youth Development Forum. The adjoining areas, he says, have also become hotspots of waywardness. “The whole area is dominated by coaching centres and in each one there are more than 500 students from both the sexes,” he says.
According to students the role of police has been inadequate in checking the activities around these coaching centres. “The police is turning a blind eye at what is happening around these centres and it finds itself hapless in front of growing hooliganism,” says Bisma, a 12th standard student from Bemina. She has been attending three classes at three separate coaching centres from three separate teachers for the past two months. She says many social evils have cropped up around tuition centres. “We really fear going to tuition now, particularly to Bhagat. The hooliganism is increasing. The irony is that nobody is checking it,” Bisma says.
The parents of students say there are little ‘security measures’ in place to check the nuisance around coaching centres. “The point is not that there should be no coaching centres, but some checks and balances should be put in place now,” says Sheikh Aashiq, a resident of Rajbagh. He says the behavior of some youth who roam around coaching centres has vitiated the academic environment. “We are worried about the security of our children. The other day a youth threw acid on a girl’s face at Bhagat, tomorrow it could be anyone else,” Aashiq says.
A Physics teacher, who coaches 11th and 12th standard students at a Bhagat centre, says there must be some kind of mechanism to keep checks on registration process of coaching centres. “The number of tuition centers has indeed gone up,” he admits. “Not everyone should be allowed registration to set up a tuition centre. It must be allowed on certain grounds, like the quality of teaching being imparted to students and the security measures in place for students,” he says.
 Director School Education Muhammad Shafi Rather says the state government has constituted division and district level committees to keep a check on growing number of coaching centres. “Most of the coaching centres are functioning without registration in the Valley and we have constituted committees at division and district levels to put an end to all this mess,” he says.
Rather says the authorities have directed the proprietors of the coaching centres to get themselves registered, otherwise they would be handed over to police. “We won’t be giving registration to everyone. It would be given on the basis of facilities and security provided to students,” he says. “It is mandatory for them to ensure there is proper seating arrangement, lighting, washrooms and safe drinking water. Moreover the coaching centres on roadsides would not be allowed to function at any cost,” he adds.
The director says proprietors of coaching centres have to follow strict guidelines to complete the registration process. “The condition of these centres is pitiable. If they have to operate, there has to be transparency in their functioning. Before registration, the proprietors have to submit the details of teachers, students enrolled, and the fee collected,” he says. “If the coaching centres are taking fee in advance, it is gross violation of norms and whosoever resorts to it would be punished strictly,” he says, adding that the security of students would be the first priority.
Three years ago, on May 3, 2009, a 17-year-old student Romana Javed was crushed to death under a car by a duo in Bhagat locality after attending classes at a tuition centre. In a recent incident, a youth threw acid on a 28-year-old girl in the same area, injuring her seriously. In the same locality, half a dozen hit-and-run incidents have taken place over the last three years. Will the above measures translate into action on ground and help in curbing the mushroom growth of tuition centers is something that remains to be seen.